Providing a quick and accurate price to your patients can be a complicated and, at times, vexing task. But a new kit, rife with tools and tricks, might make things a little easier.
The American Hospital Association released a guide that can help hospitals to navigate the ever-growing movement to tell customers what they owe out of pocket, before care is delivered.
Titled "Achieving Price Transparency for Consumers: A Toolkit for Hospitals," the resource offers hospital leaders everything from a secret shopper exercise, to case studies and a five-point checklist to aid along the way.
As discussed in a recent H&HN interview with author and economist Adrian Slywotzky, high deductibles and coinsurance are becoming the norm, and helping to educate patients about the costs of care is becoming more important.
That's the target of the toolkit. "Greater price transparency is critical as patients become increasingly more responsible for their health care costs and more engaged in their health care decisions," Rich Umbdenstock, AHA president and CEO, said in an email to association members announcing the toolkit. "While employers, insurers and providers all play a role in transparency, it's important that hospitals and health systems take steps to improve how they are communicating price information with their patients and their community."
A good place to establish a baseline is by taking this handy 13-question self-assessment. There also is a wealth of other resources on this topic. H&HN contributing writer Lola Butcher explored some of the price transparency trends in our June cover story. Payers and employers, too, are getting louder in their demands for more detailed pricing information up front, and some are even flying patients to other cities if they can't find value locally, she reports.
The Healthcare Financial Management Association recently convened a task force of stakeholders to get to the bottom of the price transparency conundrum. One of the key points of their report is that different players are responsible for providing pricing information depending on the patient's insurance status — health insurers and the government in the case of the insured, and providers and hospitals for the uninsured.
Caroline Steinberg, vice president of trends analysis for the AHA, tells me that the hospital field seems to be moving in the right direction, with more and more organizations allocating staff to provide price information. She hopes the resource will help kick-start the process for others.
"We really felt, with all the activity around price transparency in the last year or so, that we needed to provide some resources to the field in order to assist them," she says. "It seems as though momentum is building, especially with more and more patients enrolled in high-deductible health plans, and the need for this kind of information has increased dramatically."